Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Aloha Means Goodbye: the Leaving of Oahu, Part II

Aloha means Goodbye

Sunday May 2: I spent a while earlier today rereading my columns from earlier in our time here, thinking that I would cull interesting comments from the past and riff on them. After a while though, I realized that I was wasting my time. As I read through several of the early columns, especially those chronicling our first six months, I felt a measure of ickiness that I would liken to how one looks at their reminiscences of Junior Prom.

I’m not the same writer, nor am I the same man that I was back in December of 2007, so I decided to change direction with this column, my final installment from the island of Oahu, at least from this adventure.

Hawaii is a very unique place in which to live. I leave here in two days, and I do so with a myriad of emotions.

I am on one hand very excited. My wife has been given an amazing opportunity to bring her brand of awesomeness to the National level. I’m very proud of her accomplishments and of what she is going to have the chance to do in her new job.

I am excited too to return to the East coast. I’ve missed some things about living on there. I have missed the seasons, at least I think I have. Hard to say when the weather has been pleasant 99% of the days that I’ve lived on Oahu. It will be great to be closer to family and friends, and to not have to hop on a plane to enjoy something as simple as Irish Weekend in Wildwood, the HHS Alumni Picnic at Etra, or Oktoberfest in Berea. Proximity to my sports teams will be a major bonus too. I’ve got family and friends in the VA/DC/MD area that I am very excited to connect with and spend time with. It’s a good fit for our family at this time. Add in the chance to really nurture some of the kids interests though the magic of the Smithsonian, and it is very much like Morrissey once sang, like a “hand in glove.”

On the other, ungloved hand, I am sad inside to leave Oahu. It was not a simple choice to come out here, nor was it a simple process to have done so. Everything about our life changed when we left Jersey. It doesn’t feel quite the same way this time. This move seems less dramatic in some ways, and yet more so in others. When we left Jersey, the Twins were little, and the Bear was a baby, really. There was not the sense of place and time spent with them that we worried would be irreplaceable in the next place. Most of their regularities were based in the home, and we were moving our home. This time, we are changing the kids school, looking to start the Bear in Preschool, the wife is now going to be, as we say back home, a “big time muckety-muck.” A lot of things are changing, and while we are definitely going to a place that seems good for us all in a lot of ways, there is always the trepidation of change.

But, that is not really it. While I will admit, I feel like it is time for our family to move on from Oahu, as the actual end of our time has approached, I’ve felt less sure about it in moments.

Hawaii was not an easy place to live, at first. I chronicled some of my early difficulties on the site here, and now that I understand the life and culture of this place better, I look back on some of my early reflections with a little embarrassment. There wasn’t a manual available at the time, so we did our best, and I learned that time was what it took to make it work here. Once it became clear that we lived here, and worked here, things got better. But, after we seemed to pass through that Maginot line of culture and angst, Oahu became something that I had not planned it to be, which was home. The ‘not wearing’ of socks, ties, and long pants and other uncomfortable conventions of my old life not withstanding, the home and the life we have made here have more than become those things to me: Life, and Home. And Hawaii was where it has been, and when it came time to start getting ready to leave, I will unabashedly admit that I had and still have some trepidation as to whether moving to back to the fast-paced East Coast is not the best choice for us. In all honesty, I think it’s more a measure of “Things are working here, why frack it all up by leaving?“ but, when I think clearly, I do see that this move is a good one for us and our family. But I will miss our life here, I think.

It is a place of ridiculous beauty, so much so that I’m certain I’ve become somewhat numb to it. These days, when it’s rainy or cloudy, as it has been these last few days, I find myself thinking, “it still does that?” For me to even spend a moment thinking about what the weather is going to be like is completely out of order. There will be a rude awakening as we settle back into mainland life in that regard. And the thing about the beauty here, is that it is everywhere. The sewage treatment plant on the way to Kapolei stinks a little, but it’s surrounded by hibiscus and there are mountains in the distance. But, there is more to life than beauty, and the best view I have known here is the one I have enjoyed looking across the room at my family. So it goes.

Tuesday, May 4: this column got away from me a bit. We get on a plane in a few hours, and truth be told, we are all excited. I’m certain I will be miss Hawaii, but I think I’m not really certain of how just yet. Perhaps it’s the kind of thing that will really just take time to figure out. The last few months have been very hectic, and stressful, and good too, but it has been a long haul to get to this point, and right now, I find myself feeling very hopeful about the future, more so than I feel trepidation or sadness at leaving.

Perhaps that will change, and perhaps I’ll have more poignant things to say in a week, but right now, I am cranked up to start our new life in Virginia. After all, the best parts of my life are coming with me, and they were always the best part of the island anyway.

So, perhaps too soon, I bid you Aloha for now. Another day, another segue…

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Leaving of Oahu, Part I

When I last posted a column after our first night in Virginia last March, my plan had been to update the page regularly, perhaps even daily about the trip and reflections on the process, etc.

Well, that clearly didn’t happen. I’ve made several starts since then, none of which have amounted to much.

I write today from the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki. Our house here on Oahu has sold, and just this morning, we closed on our new home in Virginia via the magic of Fed Ex and the best Notary Public I’ve ever seen.

It has been quite a few months. In the end, we are well. There have been some difficulties. We lost three buyers just before their deadlines in quick succession for excuses ranging from fear of our satellite dish to cancer. In the end, there was a fourth buyer, and they have held up. I’ve had some heath concerns, an old ailment that has popped up again, that while unpleasant, is getting better. Until yesterday, we were driving the twins almost an hour each morning so they could finish the month of April at school. It’s been a lot of driving, but was good for the twins. In the end, all the house stuff has fallen into place, and we’ve been very blessed with great realtors on both sides of the world working on our behalf. They took our car today, and so now we are hunkered down at the Village. I can see the ocean from our room. It kinda doesn’t suck.

Now, with but a few days left on the island, I think the best way for me to reflect on the last few weeks is to go old school “American Studies write after the fact” Journal style. (That’s a little inside…ask if you’re curious.) Hope you enjoy.

Late March-April 4: Things were a whirlwind. We were showing the house a lot. We visited the North shore for the last time, visiting a bunch of our favorite spots. The beauty and calm of the North shore, and how different it feels from the remainder of Oahu continue to astound me. I know very well why those who care want to “Keep the country COUNTRY.” I get it. We went to the Honolulu car show this week, and had a very nice time. After the show, we had lunch at the Hard Rock CafĂ©, which was extra fun as we got to watch NJ’s own “The Gaslight Anthem” perform their song “The ‘59 Sound” with Bruce on the in-house TV. Choice performance. Youtube it. We went to ride the Ewa Beach Historical train on Easter Sunday. Was very fun, and put 2/3 of our children asleep, which in and of itself was worth the price. The North Shore trip we knew would be the last time, and was a little bittersweet to drive away. It’s definitely a place a recommend spending some time in should you have cause to be on Oahu. The train was nice too.

April 15: This was the day the movers came and packed up our house. Was the first real concrete event that brought home how soon it really is that we were moving. These guys didn’t play around, either. I blinked, and lost every pair of shoes I own except for the Crocs that I was wearing. They weren’t the most conversational of gentlemen, as evidenced by the blank stares we got when we noticed that the Bear’s most treasured “Baby Ruff-ruff” had been packed up accidentally. This was in fact a potential crisis of epic proportions. We were able to redirect the Bear to a few other toys, including “Fluffy the three headed Dog,” and the promise that Ruff-ruff would in fact have a pretty grand adventure on the way to Virginia. She seemed to buy it. That Ruff-ruff will be waiting for us has come up regularly since then. Can’t wait to see her, but the Bear is holding strong.

The kids really dug the hotel right away. The twins are sharing a room, each with their own double bed. We had started the girls sharing a bed, but quickly moved the little bear into the pullout in the living room, where she’s not only been happier, but allowed the twins to sleep in some measure of peace. That was particularly important as we decided that the twins should finish the month of April in school, back in Ewa Beach, which, it turned out, takes about an hour to get to in the morning rush.

April 27: Took the Bear to Pearl Harbor today. We weren’t in time to make the last boat to the Arizona, but we were able to see the new exhibits and the visitors center that they’ve built recently. The new site is really very nicely conceived.

I’ve always been very drawn to Pearl Harbor. To drive by it virtually every day, seeing the gentle curves of the Arizona Memorial in the distance has always been a source of inspiration to me. We’ve gone to Pearl a lot, and my kids have had the chance to shake the hands of Pearl Harbor veterans, and talk with them. I’ve had the same chance, and a cherish the memories of those interactions, including the remarks of a Pearl Harbor veteran I met last year on December 7. I shook his hand, and thanked his for his service, as did the Bear. I then mentioned that my grandfather had served with Patton in Europe, to which he, with a gleam of humor in his eye retorted, “Yeah, we fought the real war out here…” and he laughed and shook my hand. It was a real moment that meant something to me. I hope in a very personal way that the kids, whatever they take from their time here are able to remember and someday reflect personally on having had the opportunity to not only visit Pearl Harbor so frequently, but to have also had the chance to meet the veterans, and live in the culture that developed here on Oahu since then. I know that living in the DC area will come with its awesome monuments, all of which I’ve seen and appreciated, but Pearl Harbor, and the Arizona will always have a special place in my heart.

April 28: Took the family to the Bishop Museum for the last time. We became members last winter during the awesome Dinosaurs exhibit. We probably went to that show alone 10 times. It was great, and the permanent exhibits are great too. Between the giant volcano, life size blue whale cross-section, and the Royal Hawaiian Kahili, it’s always a good time. The kids love it, and they’ve been exposed to a lot of very interesting exhibits. We spent a load in the gift shop this time, buying some very nice Hawaiian art stuff, including a great print of the great Duke Kahanamoku holding his huge wooden board, with Diamondhead in the background. It’s a great shot, and I actually took a picture of the Boyo in front of another of Duke’s boards that is on display on level three at the museum. Might frame them up together.

It was a great day, and walking across the courtyard, while the kids ran around, I was once again very grateful to have had the time to frequent museums and other activities with them over the last three years. They are very excited for the museums that the DC area has to offer, as am I, but I will miss the Bishop. Especially as I just learned that the Dinosaurs are coming back in a few months… Alas. The Smithsonian will have to do. We had dinner at the Kona Brewing Company, and spent a decent amount in their gift shop too. Our home in Virginia will be bursting with Aloha, I can tell you that.

April 29: Twins last day of school. While on the one hand, it would be a relief to not have to make the drive to Ewa anymore, and find something for the Bear and I to do while the kids were at school, I knew it would be a big day for them, and it was. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and woke up feeling like dreck, but we managed to get there. After spending two hours of at my final doctor visit, where the Bear was introduced to “The Price is Right” on the waiting room TV, and a fascinating food processor through the magic of infomercial, we picked up the twins cupcakes to share with their classmates at the end of the day. The teachers have been putting their work together for me to pack up, and have given me the things they will work on during May so I can work on it with them after we move. Most impressive to me was reviewing their journals for the year. The kids have a journal notebook with half lined paper and half blank, so they draw a picture, either from a prompt, or from their own imagination, and they then right about it.

In reviewing their work over the year, I was blown away at their progress. When they started the year, the Boyo could barely write his name. His most recent journal entry was a story about how we had pretended to be Elephants the afternoon before on the way to the car. He wrote it out, spelling everything correct, and drew a picture of an elephant to go along with it, and it was awesome. He started the year not interested in writing, drawing or coloring at all, and he loves it all now. And, he’s a little scary good at math. The girl was more motivated to draw and such when the year started, but was less interested in letters, and now also writes whole stories about her adventures either with our family, at school, or from her imagination. She enjoys singing, and has enjoyed singing the songs she does in music class pretty much on request. “Mele Kalikimaka” and the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a song are among her favorites. (It’s the state fish of Hawaii.)

Their classmates each gave them a hug or a handshake, and enjoyed their cupcakes, and gave them a hearty Aloha on their last day. They’ve grown up a lot during the year, and their work has improved so greatly. They’ve become very social kids, and I got a little emotional as I thought about how much they’ve changed and learned and developed over the year, and how much their teacher and the school have meant to our entire family over the year. I’ve spent a lot of time on campus, as has the Bear. She’s as well known there as the twins, and I have very much felt like we could have spent six years with the kids in that school and been satisfied with the education they would receive. That’s not always given with schools here, and I can only hope that the twins do as well in their next school, where because of their age, they will do Kindergarten again. They’ve asked to be together next year. The bear will start Pre-school, three days a week I believe.

In the end, I realized as we were leaving how quickly their school became a major focus of our time and energy, and I was sad to leave it.

Present Day:
It’s Sunday, May 2 now, and it’s regrettably rainy and cloudy today, so we are having a patented Aloha Kugs BDI (Big Day in) today. They took our car on Friday, so we’ve been grounded to life here at the Hilton Hawaiian Village since then. We also closed on the house Friday, and all went well with that, so we are now owners of a home that is about 5,567 miles away from where I signed the papers. What a time to be alive.

Other that that, we’ve really just tried to relax and have fun in our last few days on Oahu. The kids have watched a few extra movies, and I’ve caught a few Phillies and Flyers games, which has been very nice. Nothing like watching hockey while you can see the ocean outside the window. We’ve gone to the pool, which has water slides, and we’ve gone to the beach, that does not, but is still good. The water in the Kahanmoku Lagoon is choice, and makes simple floating and staring at the sky a very simple and relaxing process. We had some friends visit us here yesterday and had a very nice time with them. The wife works today, and tomorrow, and then we fly on Tuesday. And then, at least for now, our adventure on Oahu will be done.

I’m going to post this now. More to come shortly.